Illinois Court Delays Parental Notification on Abortion Again

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 17, 2011   |   6:26PM   |   Springfield, IL

An Illinois court has again delayed a parental notification on abortion law that would protect teen girls from abortions by allowing their parents to know when their minor daughters are considering one.

Pro-life groups have sought to put the law into effect for more than 15 years, and today the Illinois Appellate Court reversed and remanded the decision of the Cook County Circuit Court, which upheld the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995.

Peter Breen, Executive Director and Legal Counsel with the Thomas More Society, complained that the appellate court’s decision did not resolve the ultimate legal issues raised in the case, even though those issues were fully briefed in both the trial and appellate courts.

“We strongly disagree with the Illinois Appellate Court’s decision to send this back to the trial court without deciding the legal issues involved,” he said. “This decision is flawed in so many respects that further trial proceedings would be pointless. Only a prompt review by the Illinois Supreme Court can correct the injustice of this law languishing in legal limbo.”

The Thomas More Society represented over twenty state’s attorneys as “friends of the court” in support of the parental notice law in the appellate court and has sought to intervene on behalf of two downstate state’s attorneys in support of the parental notice law in both federal and state courts.

In 1995, the Illinois General Assembly enacted the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, which requires a parent or guardian to be notified 48 hours before a child under 18 has an abortion. In 1996, a federal district court permanently enjoined the Act due to the lack of a confidential appeal and bypass rule. In 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court issued the required appeal and bypass rule, but the parental notice law still has not gone into effect due to litigation in federal and state courts by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Since 1995, over 50,000 abortions have been performed on Illinois minors. Illinois is the only Midwest state without a parental notice or consent law in effect, and so, over the same period, thousands more abortions were performed in Illinois on non-resident minors, who were allowed to escape or even evade their own States’ parental notice or consent laws.

Although the Illinois General Assembly enacted the current parental notice law on a bipartisan basis more than 15 years ago, the law has not gone into effect because of the ACLU’s federal and state court challenges. Though upheld by a Cook County judge, the law’s enforcement was still “stayed” by agreement of the ACLU and Attorney General, pending a final ruling on the ACLU’s appeal. The  ACLU filed the challenge in state court on behalf of the Hope Clinic for Women, an abortion business in Granite City outside St. Louis, and abortion practitioner Allison Cowett.

Meanwhile, Americans United for Life also filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of eight Illinois legislators supporting the parental notification law and urging the First District appellate court to uphold the law.

“This group of Illinois lawmakers has taken an important stand on behalf of parental rights. When a child is considering a potential chemical or surgical abortion, the parents have a right to know,” AUL Staff Counsel Mailee R. Smith told “Parental involvement decreases both teen pregnancy and teen birth rates, and it is tragic that legal wrangling has prevented parental involvement in a situation where it is so essential.”

The ACLU appealed to the First District appellate court and claimed that there is “no justification” for the General Assembly’s action in enacting the law. In its brief, AUL refutes that claim, demonstrating that there are numerous studies revealing that parental involvement laws decrease both minor abortion and birth rates. AUL also details the plethora of studies demonstrating that abortion harms women- and especially minors- both physically and psychologically, and that parental involvement laws help shield minors from sexual exploitation.